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Many industry professionals are questioning the way they sell travel, and we can likely expect an onslaught of new business models and ideas to flood the market as a result.
But Bahar Schmidt’s innovative idea — an online marketplace where travel advisors can list their clients’ canceled, but nonrefundable, trips for resale — predates the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schmidt, a Los Angeles-based travel advisor of 25 years, soft-launched Eluxit last November after seeing one too many luxury clients cancel a nonrefundable dream trip.
There was one client, she says, who booked a private boat trip in the Galapagos Islands for $80,000.
"A Galapagos trip needs to be booked at least one year in advance and is nonrefundable,” she said. “The client could no longer travel, and the trip went to waste.”
During her career, she says she’s also seen a $20,000 high-season hotel booking in Italy, as well as an upscale safari package, both go to waste.
About five years ago, Schmidt came up with the idea for Eluxit, which she calls the “StubHub” for high-end travel (in reference to the popular U.S. ticket resale company, where tickets are often offered at discount). Vacations on Eluxit are also offered at discount, though the amount is up to the advisor and client listing the trip. Current offerings include a four-night stay at The Resort at Paws Up for $13,282 (originally $15,280); a seven-night vacation at Casa Malca Tulum in Mexico for $5,879 (originally $9,121); and a seven-night vacation in a private villa in Mykonos, Greece, for $7,644 (originally $9,400).
Although consumers can directly post their unused trips onto Eluxit after undergoing a vetting process, Schmidt is targeting fellow travel advisors as a way to assist clients in recouping their costs. A bonus? Advisors can also earn extra revenue on top of the trip’s original commission, as Eluxit Affiliate advisors, as well as Eluxit, both receive 7% commission on trips sold through the platform. (Note: the 7% service fee is only charged if the trip sells, and becoming an Eluxit Affiliate advisor is subject to approval and free.)
Schmidt says that suppliers have been easy to work with regarding reservation changes.
"Hotels really need guests to occupy their rooms,” she said. “They depend on revenue from their restaurants, room service and spa services. In fact, when we ask for refund waivers — even from airlines — suppliers often prefer to give us a name change waiver rather than a refund.”
The Eluxit team verifies bookings and assists clients who purchase the site’s packages.
Schmidt also encourages affiliated advisors to promote their listings on their own social media channels, while Eluxit plans to promote them via social media and targeted ads.
In the future, Schmidt is hoping to present the platform directly to advisors, but has been doing so virtually until the pandemic winds down.
“I had many meetings scheduled to present to travel agents and introduce Eluxit; however, these were canceled due to the pandemic,” she said. “The only company we presented to was Altour in Los Angeles, and from that meeting, we had several agents who posted on our site. We are scheduled to present virtually in July to a few other travel agencies. We hope more agencies will come onboard to explore this new revenue stream.”